re:Imagine is an interactive event series brought to you by Medallia starting November 12 2020. Over a period of four weeks Medallia is going to delve into some of the big experience related challenges facing business right now. How to understand what is happening to your customers and what to do about it in the Covid era? In this interview AVP UK & MEA for Medallia, Shankar Balakrishnan shares his views and tells us about the upcoming mini-series by Medallia. We were also joined by Mitali Israni, Senior Marketing Manager EMEA North, Medallia.

Shankar, can you tell us the background to the upcoming re:Imagine?

We kick off this great series with a live event on 12th November. This will be three hours of live content with great speakers setting the scene for the series. 

If you look at how the past few years shaped up, with the advent of new technologies, companies have become great at understanding whether a customer had a good experience almost in real time.

But the real reason customer churn continues is because much of the focus has been on the small proportion of customers who respond to surveys. If we really want to make customer experience a true business performance lever, we need to connect with all the customers and really understand their evolving needs. In this era of rapid digital transformation because of the pandemic, the need to be able to understand and react is even more important and the opportunity even greater.

At Medallia, we believe customer experience has given way to customer engagement and the companies that are able to master this are the ones that are set up for success. As I’ve mentioned it is not about hearing from the small portion of customers who complete a survey. That may still be necessary, but it is not sufficient for success. 

The challenge companies face is that they have put in place some listening mechanisms which is usually a survey and based on these, the companies don’t have the organisational infrastructure to listen to customer signals. It is critical for organisations to develop the ability to monitor these signals or what we call “observed behaviour” and not wait for the customers to shout on their social media platforms or respond to a survey.

Let me give you an example. I am a big promoter of a news magazine, it’s a famous business publication. Recently I have been having a real challenge with the delivery of this magazine. Most of the time it’s left on my driveway which means the paper gets soaked by the time I read it and some of the time I don’t even get the delivery. I have sent three emails to their customer department, I have called them about my situation, I even wrote to their CCO. At some point, I get a survey asking me how likely I am to recommend this magazine. After all that I have told them, they should not be sending me a survey. They have the information to tell them there is a problem and that I need help. Sending me the survey amidst all this demonstrates they don’t have the capability to connect the dots and act appropriately.

Thanks Shankar, do you believe large organisations with thousands or even millions of customers can engage with all their customers on a case by case basis?

Organisations can now engage all their customers proactively and can co-create experiences.

This builds a powerful emotional connection with the customer and will help businesses become or sustain market leader status.

The way we see it, there is a twin challenge. One is a technology challenge. Do companies have the technology which can listen to contact centre calls in real time and can create intelligent insight into aspects such as how the customer felt about the call, how you should have acted and how you as an organisation can do things differently to improve CX?

So, there is a level of technology sophistication and the technology is here today. It is a question of assembling the technologies in a seamless way to deliver useful outcomes.

The other part is about the organisation’s culture. Whether you believe it or not, the frontline employees who deliver 90 percent of CX do not have this grand plan on how to deliver great CX – as they want to do the right thing by their customers. 

Employees may often see the technology, which is deployed to help them and the customer, as another stick to beat them up. Organisations need to empower employees with actionable insights and autonomy to deliver world-class experiences and at the same time help business increase profit versus saying “here is another way I’m going to monitor what you are saying to the customer.” 

Both of these need to go hand in hand for a company to reach the potential it has in customer engagement.

Tell us about the speakers that are going to be bringing this message about the future of customer experience or customer engagement as you have called it.

If you think about customer experience, the one metric that instantly comes to your mind is NPS. 

We have the father of CX, the creator of NPS, Fred Reichheld joining us on November 12th. It will be very interesting to hear what Fred has to say about CX today, I think he shares some of our concerns.

The reality is that Customer Experience and Employee Experience are two sides of the same coin.

Renowned author Josh Bersin who is very famous for his perspective on employee experience is going to talk about the employee perspective and what we are calling the employee experience economy. 

And to marry these with pragmatic insights, we have included Vodafone, NHS, Deliveroo, all of them are huge brands that impact our day to day lives. These organisations touch millions of customers every day. 

They are going to talk about the power of co-creation and as we move into this area of customer engagement, we believe that not all the answers are going to come out of the head office. The answers are going to come out from frontline agents, sometimes from your customers and sometimes from your partners. 

What are the organisations who feature Vodafone, Santander and Zurich going to tell us?

Well, how do you manage a business which is traditionally reliant on 800 or 700 branches in the market, when all these are going to be closed because of the pandemic? How do you deliver CX when you can’t operate the branches? 

If you take the case of a telco, how do you ensure the experience is delivered when 30 to 40,000 agents are not in the office? How did they deal with this situation and what are they going to do in the coming months as they know the situation is not going away? 

If I look at many organisations, they already have the information, their customers are telling them what is wrong. The problem is they are completely siloed. A contact centre agent cannot often look at the feedback that comes through a mobile app. Or, a retail store agent does not know the impact of his or her actions that ends up in 5 separate calls by one customer to the contact centre. There is a clear underlying need to unify these signals together but it is only the first step.

‘How do you intelligently analyse this to extract the actionable feedback out of your system?’ is the question which is facing us. The problem is not that you cannot capture the signals, it’s whether you can join up the dots. 

The speakers from our customers are going to tell us how they are managing to achieve this successfully, and in really stressful and unprecedented times. 

What would be the main takeaways for people from attending the whole series? Does it build across the weeks?

The first day is all about setting the right expectations, putting out this perspective that expectations from CX have changed. We are saying engage the customer you are not doing this out of the goodness of your heart. CX and CE are true growth levers. In these times of uncertainty, I would argue it is one of the best levers you have. Who is better than your customers and employees to tell you how to improve on the experience they are getting?

As a part of MasterCast, the NHS case study is a very interesting lesson for us and it epitomises what we think you can gain from listening to the whole series. In this case study they will demonstrate how they used their collaboration / co-creation platform to solve some huge issues affecting the supply chain and patients only recently. So be sure to have a listen to that one.

Every company we are working with is accelerating its digital transformation. They have a 5-year digital transformation plan and they’ve got 5 months to get it right. The end of every digital transformation has to seem intuitive to the customer. It has to be seamless. Without having the listening posts, it is impossible to know for sure what impact your digital transformation is having on the customer. Not every customer might tell you their thoughts openly – some of them might but many of them will do something. They will visit your website or app, call your contact centre, chat with your agent or send an email – all these are vital signals which need to be listened to.

No business currently has a visibility of more than a few months ahead. The ability to constantly iterate and react to these signals is going to be the new growth lever which we think companies have not exploited enough.

Mitali Israni: On the launch day on 12th November, we are bringing people to be inspired. Industry innovators will discuss the issues, the pain points and the key challenges and how people can quickly adapt to the new normal. In the following weeks, we will take people on a journey by going through customer case studies. 

Through our customer MasterCasts we will bring great stories to life. We will also bring forward Medallia subject matter experts who will take people through a journey on the key customer issues and where Medallia products come in. They will be able to learn about our solutions and the key challenges they are seeing. 

Medallia CEO, Leslie Stretch will be delivering the opening keynote during the first live session. It’s sort of global event but it is targeted towards APAC and EMEA. The localisation point is very important because people want to hear from a local or more familiar brand. 

At Medallia we recognise customer experience is not just relevant to the customer experience teams. Anyone who is directly or indirectly impacting customers, whether they are internal or external, is a part of delivering the customer experience, so I would invite everyone to join the sessions. Whether you are in customer success or IT or HR there is something here which can be vital for everyone.

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